Kate's style: elegant but conservative

With all her pencil skirts and jackets, high-necked Chanel-lookalike suits and hats, Kate Middleton dresses more like a 50-year-old lady than a budding princess.
So far, Kate Middleton has proven to be a tasteful dresser, but she's not nearly as daring as Lady Di. (Photo Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Every time I see a picture of Kate Middleton these days, I think two things.

Number one: Damn, that girl is getting skinny. I wonder if there is any way I could get through the walls of security that have been built around the increasingly frail Ms. Middleton with a steaming hot Big Mac and fries and shout, "Emergency! We’ve got another princess with a potential eating disorder – lemme through!"

My second thought is: Girl, why are you always dressing like a 50-year old lady? All those pencil skirts and jackets, high-necked Chanel-lookalike suits and those hats? Those hats! The feathers and the shapes remind me of the cake-like concoctions I saw on old black ladies going to church when I lived in Louisville, Ky. in 2006.

It’s not a good look.

But like with so many things, it seems I’m wrong. 

"Kate has dressed appropriately, given the gig she’s signing on for," says Sarah Casselman, senior fashion editor at Fashion magazine in Toronto. "She’s elegant, she’s chic. So far, she has not made a single fashion misstep."

OK, fine. Maybe she is chic. Her skirts are to the knee and fitted just enough to show off her delicious shape, as well as her perfect, tanned calves. (She is always jetting home from Mustique; when she goes through customs, she should sign, "Nothing to declare: except smokin’ hot gams.")

Her dresses, especially the wrap dresses in royal blue, are usually stunning. But they are all such conservative choices! Where are the A-lines, the asymmetricals, the daring fabrics, the risky, innovative designers, the Japanese dresses made entirely of plastic dolls?

"Look at this job she’s signing on for," Casselman reminds me. "The Queen would not approve of very high hemlines, let alone a cutting-edge Comme Des Garcons look. Be realistic!"

"Also, Kate looks like a Noxzema girl, for god’s sakes," Casselman adds. "She is never going to be a fashion icon: she’s not fashion forward, she doesn’t push boundaries – but she does have style. She will likely end up a style icon."

Casselman is right. The girl is so damn pretty, she really can wear anything (except black or bright red, which washes her out, says Casselman, and looks far better on the Queen).

I realize my concern for her clothes is more about a loss of innocence generally: her increasingly grown-up clothes signify a move away from youth and freedom to the prison garb of the young royals.

"There is a lot of worry in London right now, especially around England," says John Caine, novelist, playwright and BBC commentator, "that Kate is being offered up as yet another sacrificial virgin, a young innocent for the firm to devour and drive mad, in the same way they did Diana."

Everyone says Kate is older and more mature than Diana. That she’s "well prepared" — but really, how can you be prepared for a life where your every move is dissected and blogged about, where everyone you’ve ever met is offered a massive cash payment to divulge intimate secrets about you? It sounds ghastly. And I don’t think any young woman can ever really be ready for it.

"She’ll be driven mad by it," Caine says gloomily. "They all are."

So, yes, of course I want Kate to dress like a young woman: in beautiful colors, in short skirts, in flirty dresses, in jeans and T-shirts. A sexy young girl dressing like a 50-something lady who lunches is wrong. But it’s more than that.

I’m hoping that for Kate, this wedding isn’t the beginning of a long slide into madness of the sort that plagued another young, beautiful princess.

Anyway, Casselman’s counsel for Kate is wonderfully pragmatic.

"She should get a full-time stylist on staff, advising her ’round the clock," she says. "Everyone will be watching everything she does."

I’d also like to suggest a good shrink.